Every customer that enters your restaurant must be greeted or acknowledged by your staff in a timely manner. This is the customer’s first impression.
Too many times, restaurant patrons are not promptly greeted or acknowledged when they enter the restaurant. This first impression is vital for repeat business. A positive first impression can not only lead to sales, but the opposite can happen if your customers leave your restaurant unsatisfied or unhappy. Do you want something as simple as a greeting to lose customers to your competition?
The first focus of restaurants is the front door. Do whatever it takes to ensure that all guests are greeted with a warm, friendly smile.
Some restaurants have limited cash flow and cannot afford to schedule a receptionist. During off-peak hours, no one may be watching the door to see if customers are coming or going. If that’s the case, look for an alternative.
It’s frustrating to walk into any business and then search for the staff members who can help you. Even worse is seeing staff members who don’t even acknowledge your presence and employees who are involved in leisure activities like hanging out with other employees or talking on cell phones.
Many restaurant complaints occur during off-peak hours simply because there are fewer staff working and management is often in the office catching up on paperwork. The number one reason for complaints during off-peak hours is that staff and management have relaxed and become less customer focused. You must instill the value of each customer to your staff and managers.
If you can’t always have someone watching the door, use other ways to alert staff of arriving customers. Installing a doorbell system or alarm at the front door would be an inexpensive way to alert your staff members that a guest has entered or left the restaurant, especially when you don’t have anyone available to greet guests.
Install another doorbell or intercom system in the manager’s office from the kitchen and service area. Then, if a staff member needs a manager, staff can use the doorbell or intercom system to alert the manager that they are needed immediately. In this way, employees can concentrate on their work and do not have to run to the office to find the manager. This also serves the purpose of an alert system in the event of an emergency.
If you have customer complaints because no one greeted or acknowledged them, it will be costly. Your restaurant depends on repeat business. You must take responsibility for making each customer feel welcome.
Teach all staff members, including cooks, dishwashers, and servers, that the front door is priority number one. All staff members must be able to greet the guest and then seat them in a timely manner. Show employees the server seating plan and table numbers.
A schematic diagram of the dining room floor should be placed in various areas, including the welcome stall area and service hall. The chart must be laminated or on a protective sheet.
The diagram is used in the larger area to keep track of which tables are in use and to have a rotation system for seating guests. It’s a good idea to set up multiple “section” charts, with a few of your most “favorite” charts in each section. It knows which tables may be requested most frequently, such as booths or tables near a window, private seating for clients on a date, or larger tables for families and groups. Make sure these preferred tables are evenly divided into each section, and if that’s not possible, make sure your servers aren’t always assigned to the same sections.
In addition to welcoming guests, greeters should ask them if they have any preferences, such as a table or a booth. When a large group arrives, there should be no question as to whether the group can sit together. Find a way to make it happen. They are there to share that group experience and if you can’t provide that to your customers, they will find you in your competition.
The service hall chart will allow the manager to list all server names with their table numbers and section assignment. Once the table is filled in, it will be much easier to know which server is assigned to which section along with their table numbers.
The seating chart is also useful for bringing food to guests. This shows, at a glance, the location of each table in the dining room with the currently assigned table number and server. Make sure server names and table assignments are updated as servers come and go from their shifts. When a server is up and running, it’s best to keep that server in one section and not change it mid-shift or when another server arrives.
Begin training on how to greet customers at employee orientation. If you don’t have a training program and don’t know what to cover with new staff, get help learning it because that’s another key to your success.
Explain to all employees that it is their responsibility to greet all guests as they enter and leave the restaurant. Teach all staff members how to recognize the guest if their hands are full. For example, if a server carries plates or glasses and cannot immediately seat the guest, the server must still greet all guests entering the restaurant. They must welcome the customer and assure the guests that someone will be fine with them. That server must then either go ahead with the guest seat or tell greeters or other servers that there are customers waiting to be seated at the front door.
If the employee is on break or has shown up for work early and is hanging around the lobby area, it is still their responsibility to greet guests. Ignoring it sends a negative message whether the staff member is on duty or not. That customer doesn’t know the person is out of hours. Train each employee to represent your restaurant every time he is present in the restaurant, or even outside the restaurant in uniform.
Most restaurants have a policy that employees cannot stay in the lobby area, but it can still happen. It’s best to tell employees after they’ve finished their shift that they should go home and not stay anywhere in the restaurant. In addition to the negative meaning it can give to guests, off-duty employees who stay after their shifts are done create a distraction for restaurant employees who are actually working.
Every employee who is in sight of a customer must have a clean and pressed uniform. If a kitchen employee is sent to seat guests, they must remove their kitchen apron before greeting the guest to be seated.
All employees arriving for work or taking a break or finished for the day or evening must be in a clean, pressed complete uniform; their shirts need to be tucked in. They should also not be sitting down reading, playing games, texting, or talking on a cell phone. The guest does not know if the employees are on break, if they came to work early, or if they are done for the day. Look at it from the guest’s perspective to understand what they see through their eyes and hear what they hear. Putting yourself in the customer’s shoes will help you see and hear a different perspective on customer service. If you were the guest and saw these things, what would you think? This is very important to the success of your restaurant.
Teach all employees that there is no use of cell phones while on duty or on a break in view of the guest.
You must also not allow employees to smoke in front of the restaurant or in full view of a guest, including during breaks, or off the clock at the beginning or end of a shift. Many restaurants and businesses have designated smoking areas for employees that are out of sight of customers.
A really good idea is to have your staff members add an extra enhancement of excellent customer service by opening the doors as the guest arrives and leaves the restaurant.
Work outside the box and get creative about how you want your guests to be greeted and seated. Do what you have to do to beat your competition by providing service and food beyond the norm.